Hindi Reviews

Fanney Khan: A Happy Tune With Some Jarring Notes

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Director: Atul Manjrekar

Cast: Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao, Divya Dutta and Pihu Sand

Music: Amit Trivedi

An orchestra singer-turned-factory worker. Tune testing on the terrace with a friend. A daughter who does not understand why her father wants to see her succeed. A friend who is willing to do anything for another. A superstar singer who needs a break from it all.

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In a nutshell, this is Fanney Khan, the story of an ordinary man who dreams big. But, would you root for him to succeed? Not quite.

There’s a scene towards the end of the film where his wife Kavita (played by the lovely, always underused Divya Dutta) tells her husband Prashant Sharma (who’s also called Fanney Khan, the everyday man, and is played by Anil Kapoor) that she never saw in their daughter what he knew all along. That is true of us too.

For a film that stands on the premise of a father doing all he can to ensure his daughter achieves stardom as a singer, we see very little of the daughter as a singer. This, even when he keeps speaking about it. We see her as a rebellious teen who tries to hide her weight behind anger, a girl who still gets her mom but not her father’s hope or his attempts to understand her. But how does one root for a child when we have no idea what kind of singer she is. Yes, there’s a song with the children in the chawl, and two half-hearted attempts on stage, but none that tells us that ‘Hey, hear this child. She’s the next superstar’. It rankles, especially since Sumitra aka Baby Singh, played admirably well by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, keeps emphasising the importance of hard work and practice.

Fanney Khan, co-produced by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Anil Kapoor and T Series, is a film that will stand out for a couple of reasons. Must thank director Atul Manjrekar for giving us the Anil Kapoor whom we lost to stardom; a performer who can be both an actor and a star. Also, for making us forget Race 3. The opening scene is a hoot — as he wears a golden jacket and croons ‘Badan Pe Sitaare’, time stops still. Cinematographer Tirru does a great job transporting us to nostalgia land. This is the Anil Kapoor of the 80’s, the 90s, the 2000s, but also of 2018! The film shows us yet again that Rajkummar Rao (Abhir) was born to be in front of the camera, be it while waiting for Prashant’s reaction to his latest creation, baingan noodles, or for Baby’s feedback on his cooking skills, never mind that she’s been kidnapped and he’s minding her. He’s a simple man – perfectly happy cooking, working in a metal factory, driving around the people he loves and, even turning an accomplice for kidnapping. The film gives us an Aishwarya Rai who can be related to. It focuses the camera on her rare natural smile and looks beyond the make-up. I have always believed she looks best without make-up and the attendant paraphernalia.

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During her entire kidnapping saga, she looks her natural best, laughs easily, does not think twice before swinging a leg on the table or dancing on the street. Baby Singh wants a break, but watching the film you’d almost believe Aishwarya is the one enjoying not having to play the diva.

Whoever knew that Aishwarya and Rajkummar’s chemistry could crackle with fun and sudden intensity! The scene where they tap fingers on the table when all he wants is for her to hold his hand is but a sample. She’s never seen anyone like him; the man who can’t hold a note in comparison to her voice that soars. But, also the man who makes her laugh, possibly the friend she never has or the boyfriend she had no time to make. He also bonds with her dog Ustad.

Newcomer Pihu Sand, who plays Fanney’s daughter Lata, is a good find, her face a perfect foil for her self-doubts and a good canvas for her irritation and occasional tears. Divya’s Kavita is the supportive mother, and the understanding wife who does not know how her husband will fund his dreams for their daughter when they hardly save 600 rupees a month. She brushes aside anything negative; her only goal is to be there for her daughter.

The film works well till the focus is on Fanney, Kavita, Lata, Abhir and Baby. It is when the angle of the reality show is introduced that the film begins to lag. Girish Kulkarni pulls off irritating characters well – remember Dangal? Here, his character of Baby’s manager is written that way too, but a false note creeps in here and there. Towards the end, his behaviour with Fanney is akin to a cat playing with a mouse when it is not hungry – does it mean to kill it or is it just having fun at the expense of the mouse?

Production designer Ajay Vipin lends a lived-in feel to Fanney’s home — non-crackling bedsheets and dark-coloured walls, for instance. Tirru lights up the frames the way only he does — be it in the canteen that doubles up as a kidnappers’ den, the glitz filled floor of reality shows or Fanney’s cosy home. Music by Amit Trivedi works only for ‘Tera Jaisa Tu Hai’ rendered well by Monali Thakur, despite the uninspiring lyrics.

After the lull, there’s a sudden rush to conclude things. There’s reveal after reveal, Lata suddenly sings like a diva and the court absolves Fanney of any crime. Very filmi for a film that’s quite rooted. But, watch it for some really good performances and a director who show assurance in his very first film.

The Fanney Khan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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